At the start of the Covid-19 pandemic (and my unexpected hiatus from work) I briefly considered reading a lovely copy of War and Peace I had received as a gift years ago. My powers of concentration and tolerance for frustration were lacking and, sadly, the great novel was returned to the shelf. It seemed that a lighter, somewhat offbeat reading selection was in order.
The right book at the right time turned out to be Daisy Jones & the Six. It’s a romp through the LA rock music scene of the late sixties and early seventies. These years coincide with my late teens, and I get weirdly nostalgic and misty-eyed when I hear certain songs from the era. I wasn’t at Woodstock but did listen to an 8-track tape of the soundtrack hundreds of times. This novel promised to be about MY music: what could be better? [Note: A book is considered to be historical fiction if it’s set 50 or more years in the past – ouch!]
The story centers on the tempestuous and star-crossed relationship of Daisy Jones and Billy Dunne, lead singers and songwriters for an up-and-coming rock and roll band. Daisy’s beauty and charisma move others to write lyrics about her, but she is a gifted singer and songwriter in her own right. I wanted to hate her until she said, ”I have absolutely no interest in being somebody else’s muse. I am not a muse. I am the somebody.” Her willfulness and wit won me over. Initially, things are also rocky with Billy, who resents Daisy’s inclusion in a recording session and, later, his band. Her destabilizing presence threatens his recovery from drugs and his reconciliation with his wife, yet their collaboration in songwriting, recording, and performing is pure magic.
Stylistically, the novel is written as an oral history based on interviews with band members and other people in their orbit. The fun part of reading it is trying to figure out which real-life musicians of the seventies inspired Reid’s descriptions of the era. What particular hit songs, classic album covers, stars’ addiction issues, and newsworthy temper tantrums did she research to include in the plot? I’m quite certain that Janis Joplin’s Piece of My Heart inspired the moment in the recording studio when Billy tells Daisy to “sing so hard your knees buckle.”
I love the films Almost Famous and Bohemian Rhapsody because they transport me to a time when music seemed raw and fresh and evoked all-new images and emotions. Daisy Jones & the Six had the same effect and was an unabashed pleasure to read.
Review by Pam Barry of the Reference Department.
Daisy Jones & the Six is available through the Cloud Library. Click here to get started.